The Bad News And The Good News About Tobacco

January 3, 2012


End tobacco dependenceTobacco smoke either causes or makes worse most breathing problems of children. The smoke that an unborn baby is exposed to when the mother smokes or breathes in other people's smoke is even worse.

Most tobacco smoke exposure of children comes from their parents and caregivers. Although most parents try to keep their smoking away from their children, it is hard to be a close family and not expose your kids.

The bad news: Smoking changes brain structure and chemistry such that it is hard to feel normal without nicotine. It's not just the craving and irritability; it's trouble focusing, trouble sleeping, depression, and trouble feeling pleasure. Tobacco dependence is not just a bad habit; it is a severe addiction that impacts not just you, but every one close to you. When you are tobacco dependent, tobacco is in control — and you often don't realize

just how much the tobacco is in control of your brain.

The good news: Tobacco dependence is treatable! Treatment helps not just yourself, but your whole family. Even something as simple as starting over the counter nicotine replacement can help you get ready. Think of tobacco dependence as a chronic disease like diabetes and high blood pressure. If it is mild, diet and lifestyle changes may be enough. But if it is moderate or severe — or if you have tried the lifestyle changes and are still smoking — then medication is needed. How much medicine? It really depends on how much is needed to control the chronic disease — which in the case of tobacco dependence is being able to feel normal without smoking.

Yes, some people can stop smoking without medication. And yes, some people don't need anesthesia for a root canal in the dentist's office. Then there are the rest of us. Effective treatment for tobacco dependence is available; don't hesitate to use if if you need it.

For people with moderate or severe tobacco dependence, often a combination of medications including long acting medicines (nicotine patch, bupropin (Zyban, Wellbutrin), varenicline (Chantix)) and faster acting medicine (nicotine gum, lozenge, or nasal spray) is needed. Step down the medication slowly and gradually as you feel comfortable — not a fixed timetable. Keep in mind, tobacco use is the most toxic way to deliver nicotine. You and your family are much safer and healthier when you stay on enough nicotine replacement to keep you from returning to smoking. You would not stop your diabetes or high blood pressure medicine after 6 months regardless of control of the disease. Then why would you do that with a diseases as severe as tobacco dependence?

For help with tobacco dependence treatment ask your doctor and call the National Smoker's Quitline at 1.800.QUIT.NOW. To learn more about state of the art tobacco dependence treatment, you can refer to the American College of Chest Physician's Tobacco Dependence Treatment Toolkit at (free after registration). Having your tobacco dependence effectively treated is the best gift you can give your family.

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